Review: Niwalker NWK 550N3 (XM-L U2 | 1 x 18650 / 2 x RCR123's)

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turboBB
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Review: Niwalker NWK 550N3 (XM-L U2 | 1 x 18650 / 2 x RCR123's)

While Niwalker will be expanding their product offerings, they also make continued updates to their exisitng lineup. The NWK 550N3 is an upgrade to their venerable NWK 550N2:

While the upgrades are mentioned to be largely attributable to cosmetics and construction, my initial impression already is that it is extremely well built. Let's see if it has the goods to take on some of the recent competition.


MFG SPECS
MSRP: TBD
Body Finish: HA III Mil Spec hard anodized mat black
LED : Cree XM-L U2 50,000 life span
Output: High:550, Mid:230, Low:20 lumens ANSI standard
Run Time: High 2hrs, Mid 6hrs, Low:50hrs
Operation: Tactical single high output or General multi-level output. To change between tactical mode and general mode is simple, just press and hold the secondary switch for 2.5 seconds.
Reflector: Smooth polished reflector, focused clean crisp beam
Waterproof: IPX-8 standard
Working Voltage: 3.4V-8.4V
Dimensions: Length:151mm Bezel diameter:40mm Body diameter:25.4mm
Weight: 150g
Light Body: Made of durable aircraft-grade aluminum
Lens: Toughened AR coated glass lens
Product Character: High output, rugged construction and immediate access to strobe
Lockout: Assures the NWK 550N3 will not inadvertently turn on
Design Features: Specially designed for security, self-defense, military, police, law enforcement, hunting and search & rescue

PACKAGING / CONTENTS
The 550N3 is shipped in a rather non-descript cardboard box that is touted as being an Eco-Friendly Package and is truly not much bigger than all the contents it holds:


Additional accessories include:
- warranty card emobssed w/company seal
- printed instructions
- lanyard
- pocket clip
- holster (and a really nice one at that)

Niwalker also provided a set of four color filters and a diffuser for testing (these will be available for purchase separately):



CONDENSED VIDEO SUMMARY
Here is a quick high-level video summary of the 550N3 while while I work on fleshing out this review:

 

DESIGN / FEATURES
The 550N3, like many of its tactical peers, features a semi-crenellated SS bezel which allows you to easily see if it's on when stood bezel-down:

The lens features double-sided AR coating.

Peering behind the lens, you'll see that the XM-L LED is perfectly centered via the use of a centering mold:

Save for one machined groove bearing a "Hot Surface" warning, the head is bereft of any other design details/etchings.

The entire head can be disassemled as follows:

The plastic white washer (lying under the SS bezel) was a very nice touch! It prevents the bezel from grinding against the AR coated lens during removal/installation.

The base of the head features three heat fins follwed by what looks to be an anti-roll ring but it is purely for aesthetics and doesn't function in that capacity (if anything, it contributes to the heat sink):

There are another set of 3 ciruclar fins just aft of that.

The body features two-flat sides (directly opposite each other) with one bearing the company name, logo, model and serial no and the other is left blank:


The other two sides feature machined grooves that IMO contribute nicely to the overall aesthetics of the 550N3.
 

SIZE / HANDLING

L to R: RL3100 | XENO S3A | Sunwayman T20C | XENO G10v2 | FoxFury Rook CheckMate | XTAR TZ20 | Niwalker 550N3 | Crelant V9-T6 | ThruNite TN11S

The 550N3 is on the larger end of the 18650-sized lights in my collection. It does fit very nicely in my medium-sized hand though:

The tactical ring allows one to employ a cigar-grip but given the flat-edge on one-side, it does need to be oriented accordingly.

 

FIT & FINISH
This is my first direct exposure to Niwalker's products but I have previously read run4jc's oustanding torture test thread of a pre-production NWK550 model which was a predecessor to the current model I'm reviewing. Suffice to say, after handling this light for a few weeks now, I have no doubt in my mind it withstood all the tests that he put that model through.

First let's start with the anodizing, it is absolutely flawless and perfectly matched between all parts:

Note: Flash was intentionally used in this shot to highlight any mismatching but none was found.

All engravings are also nice and sharp with no blotchiness:



The entire light* features square-cut threads that were all amply greased and didn't have any gritiness on them :
[pics]

*With the exception of the bezel but even that and the filters thread on very smoothly.
 

BEAMSHOTS
Indoors (5m)
High




Med


Low


w/Diffuser
High




Med


Low


w/Blue filter (it's actually a darker blue in real life)
High




Med


Low


w/Green filter
High




Med


Low


w/Red filter
High




Med


Low


w/Yellow filter
High




Med
 

Low


OUTDOORS
500ft (152.4m) beach shots

For details of the above outdoor shot and comparo vs. many other lights, please check turboBB's 2012 Labor Day weekend camping shots



RUNTIME
The relevant battery stats are provided above each runtime graph along with:
- Voltage of the battery at the start and end of the test
- Current draw
- Actual runtime using ANSI FL1 (first in HR and then in M so for the RL3100 on High, read this as 1.8hrs OR 109min)
- NEW (as of May 2012): Lumens measured on PVC LMD @ 30 seconds
- Also for High, captured the temperature: ambient, the head/fins at start and the max it reached (fan was used for all bats)

With a single cell, the 550N3 doesn't run all that hot despite a current draw just above 2A. There is what seems to be PWM as evidenced by the zig zags on each run. I was just shy of matching the 2hrs claimed runtime with either the RL or AW LiCo cells but it's uncertain what Niwalker used in their testing (I will find out). However, I did measure output to be slightly higher than claimed with a max reached with the AW2600 LiCo. There is no low voltage warning with the light shutting off abruptly as the cells are depleted.


With two cells, the 550N3 runs in just about near perfect regulation after an initial dip. There is a slight uptick in temp but to levels that would cause any concern. There is also a slight bump in output but given the size limitations of the cells (2x18350 max) the runtime isn't super long. There isn't an extension tube to run 2x18650's to the best of my knowledge but I have an inquiry to Niwalker re: this.



MORE TO COME...


=======
Disclosure: 550N3 provided by Niwalker for review.

Edited by: sb56637 on 08/26/2014 - 17:20
Match
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Well done video! Clear, concise, and no stumbling of words... (which is my big hang-up).  

Looks like a very nice light, thanks for the review!

Ledsmoke
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This just looks so throwy from the picture you took. That is impressive for a 40 mm bezel. 

I am looking forward to your lux readings since this looks like good throw for a handy size.

And I like the beam proportions.

~ Ledsmoke ~

Dutch humor:

[quote=djozz]

 I do not think that the BLF-community ben

turboBB
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Thx guys!

@Ledsmoke - I measured lux @ 1m on 2 cells to be 14.3K.

DARCANGEL
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Thanks turbo bb,the niwalker brand seems to be top notch stuff.This is one of the most well executed lights I have seen.If someone needs the strobe feature(i.e. law enforcement)you would want instant access to it which this light has.The case design and diffuser package with this light is well thought out too.Availability of a pressure switch would make this a perfect weapon mount flashlight.Great review as always!

fishinfool
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Awesome video review there Tim! 

 

I really like the different filters and the holster too.

 

 

Don wrote:

"But as I said long ago, you are more likely to be killed by a dead fish dropped by a seagull in the Sahara Desert than by a lithium ion

Ledsmoke
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Oh - sorry to hear that. Was hoping for mid twenties or above. I'll keep searching then. Maybe when more lights come out with the XP-G2 I'll find something that tickles my fancy Smile

~ Ledsmoke ~

Dutch humor:

[quote=djozz]

 I do not think that the BLF-community ben

sb56637
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Wow, nice photography! Thanks so much. Frontpage’d and Sticky’d.

Budget Light Forum ...where Frugal meets with Flashlight!

ILIKEFLASHLIGHTS
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sb56637 wrote:
Wow, nice photography! Thanks so much. Frontpage’d and Sticky’d.

I have to agree. I am impressed with all the great pictures.